This was originally posted as a featured article in the newsletter at Centene Corporation. I thought you would enjoy it as well!
What comes to your mind when you hear the words “domestic violence” or “abuse”? An episode of C.O.P.S? The bad section of town? Broken bones and bruises? Yes, it can be attributed to those images, but it is so much more.
Unfortunately, abuse is all around us. It is in every neighborhood, socio-economic class, ethnic group, religion, sexual orientation, and country. Both men and women are victims of abuse, as well as perpetrators of abuse. Chances are, you unknowingly interact with someone daily who is a victim of abuse, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of abuse in their lifetime.
I was one of those victims. My abbreviated story is one you might be able to relate to yourself. On the outside, I looked like I had it all together. I wore a “happy face”, even though I was miserable inside. My abuser of 13 years was a respected businessman, a leader at church, intelligent, good looking, and came from a good loving family. He was an expert at deceiving people and hiding who he really was. That’s what abusers do. But behind closed doors he was a different person altogether. He was manipulative, controlling, paranoid, angry, and untrusting. My whereabouts were tracked. He would accuse me of having affairs. I walked on eggshells to avoid setting off his rage. Every morning, I would wake up wondering what kind of mood he was going to be in, and how everything was going to be my fault. The house was never clean enough, the grocery bill was too high, I didn’t make enough money, or there was a scratch on the car. I wasn’t a good enough for anything. Yelling and humiliating me in restaurants for some insignificant thing was common. He was so disruptive that the waiters asked me if I needed help. The way he would manipulate me would be to put a gun to his head until I did what he wanted. My choices were taken away from me: what kind of car to drive, where to work, who I could hang out with, and how much money I got to spend. Gifts from him were based on whether I did what I was told.
That’s what an abuser does. Notice I never mentioned hitting. My abuser made my life a living hell without laying a finger on me. That’s because the common denominator of domestic violence and abuse is not beatings- It is CONTROL! It is fear and it is manipulation. There are many different kinds of abuse: physical, threats, emotional, verbal, financial, social, sexual, neglect, and spiritual. Don’t ever let someone tell you that it isn’t abuse if you aren’t getting hit! The body will heal from injuries relatively quickly, but ultimately all types of abuse will scar someone’s soul for the rest of his/her life!
Most people don’t know how to deal with the pain of the aftermath of abuse, so they stuff it deep inside and pretend it isn’t there. If you don’t deal with it, it will negatively manifest in several ways throughout your life. Abuse thrives in secret. You must acknowledge that it exists, bring out into the open, and process those events and feelings to begin the healing process.
So, back to my story. I felt trapped, depressed and alone. Very few people believed that I was being abused. Divorce was not acceptable in my social circle. Why did I stayed so long, you ask? It is again about mind control. When you are told you’re worthless, stupid, and will never make it, you start to believe that. Leaving seemed impossible. So I stayed a long time. One day, I finally woke up and decided that I could not live like this anymore. It was terrifying hiding my plan to leave in 4 months when I knew he would be out of town. I left with my belongings and never looked back.
And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I lost everything. My house, my dogs, my church, my friends (who took sides). I went through unemployment and bankruptcy. It was a difficult two years, but I had hope that there was a better life for me.
My life is completely different than it was 12 years ago. My husband Brian and I just celebrated our 9th anniversary. I thank God for him every day. I wanted to help other people who have gone through the same thing I did, so I started an organization 10 years ago, called DSW Ministries. We are both musicians, and use our music to educate, inspire, and empower abuse survivors. I am also a trained facilitator with Mending The Soul, which is a free small group that helps people heal from all kinds of abuse and trauma. It is a safe, confidential place to tell your story, be believed, and supported. It gives people hope that there is life after abuse. It is heartbreaking to hear the unspeakable horrors these survivors have endured. I am right there with them in the pit, crying with them, being angry with them, and rejoicing with them along their journey. It is all worth it when I see them grow, change, learn, and succeed in life! I have been able to help people all over the world through the modern technology of Skype and Zoom!
A common belief I notice with survivors, is that they don’t think they deserve love or respect. Each one of you has been placed on this earth for a reason, a special purpose. YOU are unique. You are irreplaceable. You ARE loveable. You are beautiful. And you are strong! You CAN start over again. Not only will you survive-you can thrive!
The men and women in my groups are so brave, and inspire me every day how the human spirit can rise out of the ashes and live incredible lives! I am honored and blessed to be included in their journey of healing.
If you, or someone you care about needs help, please reach out to me by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like me to speak at your church or organization , please visit my public speaking page here for more information.